Lexi thought about getting up and going after Lucas. It might be fun to watch the way the Master handled getting attacked by his sub. Lucas might get a spanking. That would definitely be a sight to see. She sighed and stretched. He might be getting a spanking even as she lay here.
When had she started thinking of Aidan as her Master? Even back when they were living a very vanilla lifestyle, she’d dreamed about being able to call Aidan Master. It had been Lucas who introduced her to BDSM, but Aidan had always been everything she wanted in a Dom. His alpha nature was what attracted her to him in the first place. She and Lucas might be halves of a whole, but they needed Aidan to complete them.
She let her mind drift. She felt truly relaxed for the first time in forever. She was getting married. No long engagement this time. They were going to elope. Vegas, here we come. She knew her mom might be upset, but Lexi wasn’t taking any chances this time. She was tying that man up.
Or would it be Lucas? How exactly did they figure that out? Her mom had married Jack, and Dani had legally married Julian, but Lucas wasn’t exactly a sub in the way Sam and Finn were. Why the hell am I thinking about this when my men are out there doing hot, dirty things to each other?
Maybe she wasn’t as sore as she thought.
She pushed the covers back and put on one of Aidan’s T-shirts. It covered everything that needed covering. She would grab a cup of coffee and then go sneak a peek. Then she would sit down and write for a while. That sounded like a great way to spend the day.
She stopped at the door when she heard a cell phone chirp. Lucas’s. He must have forgotten it, a sure sign he’d relaxed. She found it buried underneath the scrubs from the previous evening. Aidan had decided they would keep the scrubs for when they needed to play doctor. She glanced down at the number. Ben Dawson. Oh, she wasn’t about to miss that call.
There was a pause. “I’m sorry. I’m looking for Lucas Cameron. Is this Lexi?”
“In the flesh. Lucas is doing things he really can’t do with a phone in his hand. I’m afraid you have to talk to me.”
A low, seductive chuckle came across the line. “Oh, sweetheart, I would love to do more than talk to you. Have you decided to leave those two boys you were playing around with? Maybe you would like to see how semi-psychic twins do it. I can answer that question. We do it better. Hey!” Ben’s voice went from sexy to irritated in a second. “You didn’t have to throw something at me. I get the picture, asshole. Fine. I’ll move on. Chase wants to talk to Lucas.”
Weird. Chase forced Ben to make his phone calls? Those twins were a very curious pair. “Lucas isn’t here. I can have him call you back.”
A slow sigh came over the line. “No, don’t bother. We’re coming out there. We’re at the police station right now. Chase is nervous about something. I’ve learned to trust his instincts. He’s an asshole who throws staplers at his own brother and refuses to talk on the phone because he’s sure it’s going to give him cancer, but he’s freaky on target when it comes to stuff like this.”
“Did they let Karen out?” Lexi was a bit surprised. She’d heard they were planning on throwing the book at Karen. By the time Bo had come to pick them up the night before, everyone had known that Karen had been found drunk in her car not far from the accident.
“No, she’s still in jail, but Chase is certain it wasn’t her.”
That was in line with what Lucas thought. God, she wanted it to be Karen. It was very disappointing. She’d been looking forward to seeing Karen in an orange jumper. “They found her in her car in a ditch. She wrecked it after she tried to kill us.”
“Then why didn’t her airbag deploy?” Ben asked. “According to the report, she blew a 1.6 on the breathalyzer. She was two times the legal limit. There’s no way she drove that car, much less managed to drive Aidan’s truck off the road. That was deliberate and took discipline Karen Wilcox simply doesn’t have. But of course we can’t get anyone to see that here. These cops like open-and-shut cases.”
He had a point. “If not Karen, then who?”
“I’m sure Aidan didn’t like it, either.” But she didn’t see why Chase was spending his time on it.
“No, you don’t understand, sweetheart. Things don’t add up. The reports don’t make sense. Why was Aidan hit from both the back and the front? PFC Creely explains—and I’m using air quotes here—how it all went down, but I don’t buy it.” There was a muffled pause as though Ben had put his hand over the phone, then he was back. “Fine, I’ll tell her. Chase wants you to know that this was the sloppiest report he’s ever hacked into a government database to read.”
Interesting. “Does he do that often?”
“Often enough to get the FBI interested in us. There’s a reason we had to go through McKay-Taggart to get this job. Some people like to watch baseball. My brother likes to hack high-security systems.”
Maybe Chase Dawson would be the one in an orange jumpsuit. But that was irrelevant. “What did the report say?”
“Specialist Tanner’s injuries were to the back of his neck. According to Creely, Tanner broke position and ran. But Chase checked his records. Tanner was set for Ranger training two weeks after his death. He was seasoned. He’d seen worse fighting. He wouldn’t have run. Most of the men killed in the fight were taken out by M16s. Unusual, but not unheard of. Insurgents can get M16s, too. And then there’s the fact that all the weapons were recovered from the scene. All but one. PFC Creely said he lost his M16 somewhere between the scene and the hospital. That makes ballistics tests impossible.”
“Who is this Creely guy?” She would like to have a talk with that asshole.
“It’s Dwight Creely, Aidan’s foreman.”
Holy shit. Dwight, who constantly harped on Aidan to take his sleeping pills. Dwight, who got agitated every time Aidan started to remember something. “You think Dwight killed those men and shot Aidan?”
Ben hesitated, but only for a second. “Suspect is the proper word. We don’t think he killed all of them, but what if he panicked? What if he accidently killed someone and shot Aidan? Big Tag is calling an associate from the Agency to see if he can find anything out. It wouldn’t be the first incidence of friendly fire the US Military has covered up or just plain looked over. But we think Creely wants it buried, and it looks like he’s willing to kill to keep Aidan quiet. This was never about you. This is about Aidan.”
“You have to come out here. Come now.” She let the phone drop. That son of a bitch was out there with Aidan. Unless Lucas had found them, Dwight was alone with Aidan, and she had no idea what Dwight had planned next. It was obvious to her now that Dwight had done what he did to get Aidan back to the ranch where he could watch the only man who could put Dwight away. Now that Aidan was starting to remember, Dwight had decided to take him out.
She stopped in the middle of the hall. She couldn’t panic. Panicking would tip Dwight off. She needed to stay calm. She went to the office and pulled up the radio. If Aidan was out on the range, he should have his radio with him. She tried to turn the radio on but got nothing. She checked the cord to make sure it was plugged in, but all she came up with was a ragged end.
Someone had cut the cord to the radio. Someone didn’t want the cowboys on the range to be able to get in contact with the house.
Her hands shook. Ben and Chase were on their way, but it was twenty minutes from town. She couldn’t wait.
Think. Think. Think.
Aidan’s dad kept a multitude of guns in the house. She remembered that from her previous visits. It had been years, but she seriously doubted Aidan had gotten rid of all of them. Lexi remembered that there was a gun cabinet in the closet. She opened the closet in the office, and sure enough, the gun cabinet was still there.
Damn it. The desk. She rushed to the desk and prayed the key was there. She opened the desk drawer and found something much better than a key. Sitting right there on top of some papers was a revolver. She was going to have such a long discussion with Aidan about gun safety right after she saved his ass from the man trying to kill him. She picked up the revolver. Damn, it was a heavy son of a bitch. She found a fast load cartridge. Six bullets. Hopefully she wouldn’t need them at all, but she wasn’t going to go after PFC Dwight Creely with a crop, and that was the only other “weapon” she had seen in that closet.
She silently thanked her stepfathers. Jack and Sam had taught her how to use a pistol and a rifle. They had taken both Lexi and her mom to a shooting range. Her stepfathers’ belief was that if she and her mom were going to be around guns, they should damn sure know how to use them. She popped the cartridge into place. The phone was sitting right there. She picked it up and dialed her mother’s cell, praying she made a connection. Her mom and stepdads were twenty minutes away, too, but she was calling in the cavalry.
“Hey, baby, how are you doing this morning?” Her mom sounded cheery and awake.
Lexi hung up the phone. It immediately rang again, but she let it go. She knew her mother. Jack and Sam would be on their way. Whatever happened, at least she knew someone she trusted was coming for her.
She clutched the gun at her side, holding the barrel down and away. She started back toward the bedroom. She didn’t even have on shoes. She would get dressed and then go after them. It would be okay. So far Dwight hadn’t done anything blatant and open. She could see now that he’d tried to blame someone else for his crimes. He would lie in wait. She had time. She would find Lucas and Aidan in a ridiculously compromising position, and they would wonder why she was running around with a gun. By that time, Ben and Chase would be here, and Jack and Sam would be hard on their heels.
Then why had Dwight cut the radio cord?
There was no rational reason to do that unless he was making his move. If he sent the ranch hands out of range of cell phones, they would have no way to call for help.
Prickles of trepidation raced along her skin. She rushed into the kitchen. She would get dressed and find them and pray it wasn’t too late.
She was rushing through the kitchen when she stopped. She felt her hands begin to shake as she realized what she could see through the small kitchen window. It was a window over the sink, draped with faded yellow curtains. It framed the scene in a sort of weird normality. Dwight stood in front of the barn door. His back was to the window. He stood there casually, a rifle at his side. Why was he watching the barn? Was he waiting for Aidan to come out of the barn? Would he shoot Aidan?
Smoke. The faintest hint of smoke drifted from the barn.
Rolling nausea swept through her system as she realized what was happening. Aidan was trapped in the barn, and it was on fire. Terror threatened to swamp her. She didn’t know if he was dead already. He could be dead, and she’d been lying in bed. And where was Lucas? Lucas had gone looking for Aidan. Had he found Dwight?
She clamped her free hand over her mouth to stop the scream that threatened to escape. They couldn’t be dead. They couldn’t. Her mind wouldn’t wrap around the idea. They were alive, and they were in that barn. They were waiting for her.
They were her men, and by god, no son of a bitch was taking them from her.
Lexi forced herself to walk to the front door. Dwight would see her if she charged out the back. She had no doubt he was better with a rifle than she was with a handgun. After all, he had a lot of practice killing people. She hadn’t even gotten into a fistfight before.
She had to do this.
She’d never in her life felt so alone or small as she did as she crept out the front door and around the small ranch house. Her heart pounded in her chest. She wasn’t brave. She sure as hell wasn’t fearless. She was afraid of everything, but she couldn’t afford that now. She was way more afraid of losing Lucas and Aidan than she was of getting herself killed.
She reached the edge of the house. Now she could smell the smoke. How long had they been trapped in there? She was sure Lucas was in there, too. Otherwise, he would be fighting like hell. Lucas was a fighter. Aidan had already proven how hard he could fight.
It was her turn.
Tears blurred the world around her as she held the gun up in a two-handed stance. Immediately her arms ached from the weight, but she wasn’t about to fail now. As quietly as she could, she walked out into the open. Dwight still had his back to her.
“Are you going to move out of my way, or are you going to force me to shoot you?” She asked the question in a clear, calm voice that belied the horror she felt.
Wrong answer. She pulled the trigger.
The gun exploded, sending jolts of shock up her arm. The kickback set her on her ass and, once more, she wished she’d put on underwear. It was the theme of her life lately. Her lack of proper panties didn’t stop her from jumping up. Dwight was on the ground. Lexi approached quickly, gun at the ready. His body twitched in the dirt. She kicked the rifle away. Blood streamed from the wound in his chest. A thin line seeped from his mouth. He was obviously in pain, and he wasn’t dead yet.
And she didn’t have time for him. He’d made his decision the minute he’d set that barn on fire. She shot him again, right in the chest. Again the recoil hurt, but she was ready this time. She stayed on her feet and immediately turned to the barn.
“Aidan!” She screamed his name, praying he called back.
Heat poured from the barn, threatening to scorch her skin. She pulled at the barn door, but something held it closed. A lock. It was a combination lock. She had no idea what number Aidan would use.
She stepped back and aimed for the lock. After this was done, if she never saw another gun again, it would be too soon. She spread her legs wide to handle the kickback better and fired. The lock exploded. She set the gun down and pulled open the barn door.
Heat blasted from the open doors. The sides and the back of the barn were fully ablaze. Smoke was everywhere.
“What the fuck?”
“Help me, Bo. They’re in here. We have to get them out.” Lexi yelled before she ran into the barn. She could barely see through the smoke. It billowed out of the open doors. She could make out the rack. Someone was on the slab. Aidan.
She raced across the floor. Her eyes were adjusting and the smoke was clearing now that it had a place to go. Aidan was tied down. His wrists were bloody from where he’d tried to pull himself free. There was a rag in his mouth. She pulled it out. God, she couldn’t breathe. Aidan was so still.
Please. Please. Please. Let him be alive.
“I have Lucas,” Bo yelled over the crackling of the fire.
“I’ll be right back.” Bo dragged Lucas’s body outside.
She could feel Ike beside her. He whined up at her as though begging her to free his master.
Aidan coughed. It was the most beautiful sound she’d ever heard. “Lexi?”
She started working the ropes that bound Aidan. “I’m here. We have to get out.”
He shook his head. “No, angel. You have to run. Get Lucas out if you can, but Dwight’s going to kill us all. You have to run.”
She tugged and managed to pull his right hand free.
Bo was suddenly back in the barn. He pulled a knife out of his boot and started sawing through the ropes on Aidan’s right foot. “Dwight won’t be killing anyone, brother. Your girl took him out. Remind me not to piss her off. And your damn dog must have known something was up. He barked right outside my window until I got my ass up.”
She crawled onto the table to get to Aidan’s left hand. Her lungs were burning. A piece of the roof fell beside her. They didn’t have much time.
“Damn, girl. That is very distracting.” Bo cut through both ropes in the time it took her to work through the first of hers. He avoided another board that fell. He was perfectly calm, given the situation. He took that wicked knife and slashed through the rest of his brother’s ropes. “I’m trying to rescue my brother. You don’t need to be flashing your cootchie. It’s awfully pretty, though.”
“You little prick, that’s your sister-in-law.” Aidan’s hands were shaky, but he rolled off the table. His knees struck the floor.
“Yeah, hurt me later, brother.” Bo took the left side, Lexi the right, and they got Aidan to his feet.
She nearly fell as they made it out of the barn. Aidan slumped down, but Bo took his weight, leaving her to drag air into her lungs. She coughed, her lungs aching as she saw Lucas on the grass. He was so still. She raced to him, running her hands across his body, praying for any sign of life.
“Didn’t work out how I wanted it to,” Lucas muttered between parched lips. “My horniness got me in trouble today.”
“You take care of that asshole, Dwight?”
Lexi nodded. “He’s gone, babe.”
His hand found her hair. “That’s my girl.”
“Our girl.” Aidan was suddenly at her back. His face was haggard, and his voice sounded three kinds of ruined, but he was alive. She sat up, and Aidan leaned into her. “Our girl saved us. We’ll never hear the end of it now. And she did it all without any underwear.”
Lucas gave her a tired thumbs-up.
In the distance they heard a siren sounding.
Here came the cavalry.
There was the sudden sound of gunfire. Lexi jerked up.
Bo stood over Dwight, Ike at his side. He shrugged. “You’ve seen those movies. Bad guy always comes back. This one ain’t coming back. You know, I never did like that son of a bitch. You think anyone would notice if I shot him a couple hundred more times?”
“Don’t you dare,” she threatened.
She wrapped her arms around her men. Nothing in the world mattered but the fact that they were alive and well.
Two hands started to find their way under her T-shirt.
“Hey,” Lexi protested.
They both snickered.
“It’s my security blanket,” Aidan added.
They were together, and this time it was forever. Lexi felt her heart swell. She had everything she needed.
But she was going to start putting on panties first thing in the morning.